How an obituary sparks thankfulness

It probably sounds odd, but reading an obituary this past week ignited a wave of thankfulness in me.

Of course, I felt sad at first when I learned that the Rev. Jack Clouston had died. He had served as the pastor at Richmond United Methodist Church from 1989 to 1993, during a particularly pivotal stretch in my life.

I was a new mother at 30, not terribly young by some measures of what’s the perfect age to become a mom, but feeling a little on the insecure side just the same, despite the delayed transition into it.

My son Adam was born in July of 1988 and daughter Sarah arrived in August the following year, a month after Rev. Jack came to town.

In my world, that was the equivalent of twins.

I first met Rev. Jack when I invited him and his wife, Nell, to a surprise party my siblings and I were throwing in observance of our parents’ 43rd anniversary.

I wasn’t much of a church-goer then other than occasional guest appearances, having basically fallen away from such a weekly demonstration of faith after I’d gone off to college. My parents, however, were faithful churchgoers, so I had the duty of inviting the preacher man to have a party presence.

Rev. Jack accepted without hesitation.

My school of thought about church at the time was that it was too hard to go there anyway, especially when you have little kids — too many people to get ready and too much stuff to drag along only to have a baby cry and carry on in a pew. Great Earth!

Not very spiritually edifying and very embarrassing.

I had the perfect excuse.

But Rev. Jack apparently didn’t buy into that theory.

I remember a visit he paid to our home, followed up with a phone call after the stork dropped daughter Sarah off at the Kiaski household.

Both times were occasions for a sincere invitation — why don’t you come to church?

I decided that I didn’t have a good reason not to go after all, so I gradually got back into the swing of Sunday as a day for church and off I dragged babies and bags filled with what seemed like half the house.

I’m so glad I did.

I’m thankful that my church involvement ran the cycle of attending out of tradition, then going out of guilt but ultimately participating out of desire.

And that all basically evolved from a simple invitation, a reminder to me that one person can do what seems relatively small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it can make a big difference.

It did for me.

Rev. Jack was a second-career pastor, a free-lance commercial artist who traded art advertising work to labor for the Lord instead. He was there not only for my reintroduction to church, he was there as well for my family when my dad died.

Rev. Jack’s obituary noted that somewhere between God and painting, he developed a deep love for people, not just the lost, but for everyone. “During the week, he called on homes God would lead him to, never knowing who he’d meet or how they would receive him.”

I’m thankful he called on our house.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at